Minister says multi-member CAG possible, then denies it

The government is considering a proposal to make the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) a multi-member body, according to Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V Narayanasamy.

"It (Shunglu panel's suggestion to make changes in CAG) is under active consideration. The government is actively considering it," Narayanasamy told PTI in an interview. He was replying to a question about a suggestion by former CAG V K Shunglu in this regard.

However, the minister later sought to retract his comments.

Shunglu had suggested that "a three-member body would obtain greater transparency in its operation". One member should possess professional accounting qualifications, chartered accountant or its equivalent, he had said.

Reacting to Narayanasamy's remarks, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha attacked the proposal as a "very bad idea" and "unconstitutional".

Making a distinction between Election Commission and CAG, he said the official auditor cannot be treated like a commission and cannot be made a multi-member body. "It's a very, very bad idea. And I agree it is in order to muzzle the present incumbent and weaken the institution. They are out to destroy the institution of CAG," Sinha said.

Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy said the government was trying to dilute the authority and curtail autonomy of CAG because of its reports.

"Vinod Rai (CAG) became independent. The government is trying to clip his wings. It made Election Commission a multi-member body to dilute the authority of T N Seshan (the then CEC). The government should not implement Shunglu Committee report," he said.

Former CVC N Vittal said the government's move on CAG will make constitutional bodies weak.

However, former chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi said CAG will become more powerful if it has more than one member. "I won't comment on timing but making CAG a multi-member body would be better," he said citing the long experience of the multi-member Election Commission.

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